Caregiving and the Garden Connection

This time of the year, I spend a lot of time in my garden.  In part, because I live in a place that has a 90-day growing season.  You go like crazy in late May and early June, clearing away the dead stuff from last summer, and weeding, weeding, weeding through July, August and into September.  The weeds have no problem coming up even when it’s still snowing and overnight temperatures in the 20’s are killing all the other plants.

By now, I like to assume I’m on gardening auto-pilot.  Snipping a few of the choicer blossoms, pulling weeds and just generally sitting in a rocker on the porch and taking it easy.  In those moments when I actually get to do that, I realize the connection between gardening and caregiving.  Bursts of furious activity, followed by times of relative calm.

Except for the weeds.  They always spring up, just like a crisis in caregiving.  Just when you think you have your loved one’s medical situation in hand, if not actually under control, something new comes up—a new diagnosis, new symptoms, a crisis involving a trip to the hospital, and you’re right back in the frantic, stressful pace again.

As a gardener, I accept the fact that there will always be weeds, but I learn to make peace with them.  I don’t ignore them, because they’d take over the garden if I did.  But the clear-the-weeds-at-all-costs attitude that I have in early spring has to give way to a more tempered approach or else I’d work myself into the ground.

The same holds true in caregiving.  You give it all you’ve got in times of crisis, but you’ve got to cut yourself some slack when things are on a more even keel.  Yes, there is probably a problem lurking around the corner.  Let it lurk.  You’ll get to it when it’s time to get to it.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to avert the next crisis.  Save your energy for dealing with it when it arrives.

It’s like walking through my garden.  When I spot a weed, I’ll pull it, but only if the ground is moist so I know I can get the job done thoroughly.  If the ground’s dry, my hands are full or if I’m on a tight schedule, I leave it alone.  It’ll be there when the time is right to pull it up.

Blessings, Joanne Reynolds

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